Robot language tutors to get kids up to speed before school

Life is hard for immigrant children – new place, new friends, new language. Starting from next January, 4 and 5-year-olds in four cities across Europe will be getting a helping hand, by testing out robot tutors to help them get up to speed in the local language.

The project, called L2TOR, is run by linguists and roboticists from a consortium of universities across Europe. It aims to help young children gain the language skills they need when they enter the school system. The pilot will see children working with robots to boost their Dutch in the cities of Tilburg and Utrecht and German in Bielefeld, while kids in Istanbul in Turkey will get help with English.

L2TOR will have children work through a language course on a tablet computer under the watchful eye of a NAO robot. These bots are made by French firm Aldebaran Robotics and are often used in classrooms. Before starting the lesson, the robot will explain what the child is going to learn, then, once the lesson is under way, it will observe the child’s body language and assist them when they get stuck.

“We want to help these children improve their language skills through one-to-one interaction with a robot, to help them catch up,” says Paul Vogt of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, who works on L2TOR.

Robots have some advantages that humans do not – like infinite patience

Read more: New Scientist

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